Genre: Fairy Tales
Published on November 8, 2012
Published by Penguin Random House, Viking Press
Format: eBook, 400 pages
Goodreads • Amazon • Book Depository
First sentence: In the olden days, when wishing still worked, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful; but the youngest daughter was so lovely that even the sun, who has seen many things, was struck with wonder every time he shone on her face.
If you ask me which one was the first book I got, I would probably have to lie, but I can honestly say that the first three books I had were a collection of fairy tales: Hans Christian Andersen’s, Brothers Grimm’s & Russian folklore. In fact, they are one of the reasons why I learned to read when I was just 4 years old.
How did this happen? Funny story. My mother was reading me a fairy tale from one of these books and when we got to the last page, two paragraphs of text became: “And then the prince found her and kissed her and they lived happily ever after.” The last illustration for the story was girl filthy and ragged half-covered with snow in the street. I felt right away that I was being cheated and demanded from my mother to read me what is truly written there, but she stubbornly stuck to her end of the tale and explained that the picture was taken just before the prince appeared.
So, I had to take some drastic measures. 🙂 I asked my great-grandmother, who baby-sitted while my parents were at work, to teach me to read. She was an excellent teacher and very soon I could read the story by myself. As you probably guessed, the fairy tales was ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Hans Christian Andersen and we all know there is no prince for her in the end. When I re-read these books, I found out that my mother did some heavy-editing while she read them to me, because a lot of these stories did not have a classic happy ending.
Did that make me dislike them? No. I became a fairy tale book nerd. My favorite thing was discovering tales from different countries or regions. When I joined the library and found out that they had a massive collection of books with fairy tales from all around the world I was in heaven. I even read the Greek ‘fairy tales’ aka. myths.
As I grew older, I discovered other book genres and the fairy tales slept on my shelves and in my heart, neglected but never completely forgotten. This book looked like a perfect opportunity to visit those old friends.
Philip Pullman is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read His Dark Materials trilogy you better correct that mistake soon. The first book The Golden Compass has also a movie based on it. (You can check out the trailer by clicking on the name.)
I was very excited when I saw that Pullman did a retelling of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, I knew that he would do them justice.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm consists of 50 fairy tales handpicked by Pullman from a larger collection of stories that Brothers Grimm collected. Currently, there is one free story from this book on Penguin’s website, “The Fisherman and his wife“.
I must shamefully admit that I liked Pullman’s retellings even more than the original. He did not edit out strange and odd parts of the stories but his versions are much easier to read, without archaic language constructs. Also, one thing that I most appreciated, he shortened out sometimes boring repetitious parts.
At the end of each story we have notes where Pullman explains what changes he made to the original story. He even treats us with a little bit of historical background: when it was first published and a list of similar stories and adaptations. These notes were very interesting to me, but if you don’t like them you can always skip them with no harm done.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm has something to offer to everybody. It can be savored a tale a day or devoured in one afternoon. You can read it to your kids before bedtime or you can read it alone.
Whatever pace you set or audience you choose, if you are a lover of classic fairy tales you will definitely enjoy this book.